Following its release in 2006, Pirates: A Joone Film made movie history. Not only was it the highest budgeted adult film ever, but it was also the first to cross over into mainstream cinema. By cutting the bulk of the sex scenes to establish an R rating, the remaining film was still highly enjoyable – a feature in stark contrast to the adult film stereotype, and certainly a commendable achievement.
Like its presumed inspiration, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Pirates: A Joone Film was a daunting undertaking that was successfully achieved thanks to the “outside of the box” thinking of the production crew, writers, and direction. And also like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Pirates: A Joone Film’s sequel, Pirates 2: Stagnetti’s Revenge managed to fall into a common trap – namely production value over plot.
Now, before I delve, you may find yourself instinctively defending Pirates 2 on the basis that it’s an adult film and therefore the plot is secondary. To this I would offer that director Joone, by so successfully creating a “real” movie with his previous pirate film, has transcended the mere stag film genre, and it’s therefore appropriate to evaluate Pirates 2 accordingly, for better or worse.
First let’s address the good. Pirates 2 LOOKS great, no doubt. The ships and ship battles are decent, as are the two monsters – one a giant worm-like thing, and the other a long-necked, tentacled sea monster of some kind. The towns up close look good, but from a distance – as when we see a shot from the sea – they look absolutely astounding. The effects guys really did a bang up job, and that’s even before we see a single animated skeleton (of which we’re treated to towards the end.) The costumes are also of a high quality – hardly reenactor approved, mind you, but still fine work. And general film quality – a necessary factor to mention when dealing with adult films – is again first rate. Lighting and audio are excellent, and it’s easy at times to forget you’re not watching a mainstream B movie.
So what’s not so good? Regrettably, much what was so perfect in the first film fell flat in the second. Where the characters in Pirates 1 were fresh and witty, in 2 they’ve fallen victim to their own stereotypes. Captain Reynolds does have some fun moments of vanity (such as when he insists the Governor share the name of his tailor, or when he recounts his original defeat of Stagnetti, complete with dramatic swishes of his own hair), but all too often he’s mired in the same insecurities from the first film which by this point have gotten tedious. His naivete has also gotten repetitious; while his innocent misinterpretation of First Mate Jules’ sexual exploits in the first film as being “bible study” was endearingly funny, his making the same mistake with passenger Ai Chow – this time assuming massage therapy – feels entirely dippy and “been there, done that.” Ai Chow, for that matter, is cute as a button – until she opens her mouth and speaks with the sort of annoyingly stereotypical Chinese accent (I rove you rong time) that hasn’t been in comedic vogue in decades.
The story itself is more convoluted than was the first. In an effort to gain a King’s pardon for the estranged Serena – the heartachingly gorgeous piratess from the first film – Reynolds and Jules agree to retreave a special pearl that has been stolen by the Chinese pirate lady Xifeng. Accompanying them is Serena’s cousin, Olivia, who attempts to recreate Serena’s tough-as-nails persona. But instead her smug attitude and condescending eyes just come across as bitchy. Xifeng, however, is a breath of exotic air. Dark, sinister, and evil, she would really make for a fine villain in any pirate flick – adult or otherwise. That she can deliver a spoken line without making you cringe (a quality not entirely shared by the other female leads of this film) only adds to her appeal.
Their pursuit of the stolen pearl leads Reynolds and Jules to a pirate island which mainly serves as an opportunity for several sex scenes and the reintroduction of Marco – the whiny, clingy dude from the first film who we last saw curled up in the fetal position sobbing like an infant. Marco’s role is larger in this film – and somewhat less whiny. Although it’s also largely unnecessary, and siphons precious time from a story that’s already overly compacted to make room for the many, many sex scenes.
(I suppose it’s only fair to remember that this film walks a fine line. By achieving “mainstream” status, it’s indeed fair to judge it on plot, acting, scenery, etc. But lest we forget, it is still an adult film, and will therefore have a primary audience expecting plenty of skin and moaning – even if it’s at the expence of the film’s other potential merits.)
The island visit is concluded with Jules turning evil (due to hypnosis, more or less), and Reynolds nearly being devoured by a giant cave worm before it’s artfully dispatched by Olivia. Reynolds and Olivia then join up with Maria, being Serena’s sister (it seems we’re slowly accumulating Serena’s entire family – the female half at least) who again shares some of Serena’s fine qualities (this time it’s the eyes and the dreadlocks) but still comes up short in the believable-tough-chick department.
The crew sails off to find Xifeng, who’s busy resurrecting Stagenetti. Stagnetti’s appearance seems rather late-game for a movie that boasts his own name in the title – he has just enough time to get “reacquainted” with Xifeng (and with the help of Jules, mind you) before they’re caught up with by our heroes. There’s a battle, there are skeletons, there’s a pretty cool sea monster that’s all too easily eliminated – actually, there’s a whole lot of neat stuff that happens, albeit all of it very very quickly (gotta save time for the sex, mind you.)
Upon the adventure’s conclusion – which sets itself up for another sequel – Reynolds has a mind to return to Port Royal to claim Serena’s pardon. Fortunately he’s dissuaded from doing so just yet by Olivia and Maria. I say fortunately not only because of the manner by which they convince him, but because he seems to have forgotten that Serena’s pardon was predicated on the retrieval of the missing pearl. You forgot about that part, didn’t you? Well, apparently so did Reynolds. And the writers. It’s this sort of major plot inconsistency that makes me sad; all the talent and tools are here for a really fun, fantastic pirate film – if only the plot hadn’t been left in the wake.
All told, Pirates 2: Stagnetti’s Revenge, for all its glory and spectacle, falls short of its predecessor. It still runs circles around your average feature porn (not that I would know about such things), but it seems bogged down by a script split three ways. First is the many, many sex scenes which seem driven by quantity over quality, most of them edited down to the point of being awkward and jerky to watch. The second is the introduction of new and interesting material such as Xifeng, underwater ruins, and sea monsters – each of which is regrettably under-utilized, and gone before being put to full effect. And the third being the rehashing of material that worked in the first film (repeated jokes, revisiting characters simply for the sake of doing so, and multiple references to Serena, who no matter how may siblings you introduce simply can’t be replaced, so it would be better to move on to new original characters.)
Measured simply as an adult film, Pirates 2 – like Pirates 1 – is a marvel in production value. On paper it has all the right stuff to follow in Pirates 1’s path to bridge the gab between adult and mainstream cinema. But sadly it fails to entirely live up to its own potential, and remains on the high-end adult film side of the spectrum without successfully achieving the standards for a sexually-charged B movie.